Yesterday I went to brunch with 9 ladies at a country club-like establishment. We were all dressed alike with matching "bachelorette weekend" shirts and then shorts. Except for me. I wore a jean skirt. As the 9 of us sat down to dine at the buffet-style brunch, the hostess asked me to leave the dining room because I was not dressed "appropriately". She explained that my jean skirt was not hemmed and that was not permitted. I questioned the hostess because there were ladies dining in athletic shorts but she would not allow me to stay. So I was made to return to my room and change clothes in order to wrap up our celebratory weekend and enjoy brunch. It was rather humiliating. And I was furious.
For anyone that knows me...I don't believe I dress like a slob. I like to accessorize and usually am dressed more than appropriate. Never in a million years did I think wearing a non-hemmed skirt, while the entire crew was in an assortment of casual shorts, would result in me being kicked out of brunch. As I returned to brunch with the girls, I was so angry inside. I had several thoughts that crossed my mind but most of the thoughts resulted in one conclusion -- I would never associate with people that treated others like they were "less than" based on a pretentious standard.
Then I realized...I do it all the time. And I bet you do it too.
I love to accessorize and shop and dress up. And in my head I have a "standard" of what is and is not appropriate. And although I have never outwardly told someone they were not dressed appropriate...I have allowed pretentious thoughts and judgements to invade my mind. I have had thoughts like "didn't she look in a mirror before she left the house" or "that fashion trend does not look good on her/his body". I could go on but I would only further bring myself to shame and I am guessing you get my point without further embarrassment. So once again as I reflected on my circumstance and the horrible way it felt to be treated in such a manner, I was humbled to my knees in forgiveness.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
Life is tough. And yet we make it harder on each other by setting standards for one another that are superficial and meaningless. What does it matter if one lady dines in an unhemmed skirt while another dines in shorts? What does it matter if the girl walking in the mall has on an outfit that I don't find 'up to par'? In the big picture...it doesn't matter one single bit. It's a superficial standard that is not only meaningless but more times than not, just plain mean.
Humiliated, humbled, and hem-less,
In the last two weeks, I've read two articles featuring naked people that amazed me in a good way. And no...I'm not surfing porn sites for articles these days.
The first article was ESPN Magazine's Body Issue which just happened to feature a bunch of naked athletes. And although these photos were a bit on the racy side (and nude), I found them to be absolutely beautiful.
ESPN Body Issue
I didn't find as much beauty in the photos as I did the article. Each athlete is known to us for having some kind of strength, in part due to their incredible bodies. However, the article went into detail about how each athlete had an aspect of his/her body some might consider "undesirable". The basketball player showed off her big arms, big hands, etc. Another athlete highlighted her overall "density". The gymnast had to learn to embrace her overly muscular legs. The article embraced things society often considers to be imperfections and revealed that often things that might seem imperfect actually make us unique and give us ability. Although I'm fairly confident ESPN didn't intend to help highlight the beauty God created in each man and woman...that's exactly what the article did for me.
When God created man and woman, he created us naked and without shame.
Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.
I think the ESPN article represents some innocence, vulnerability and a raw beauty rarely captured. (Now please do not confuse the beauty I find in these examples with a promotion for nudity. God created us naked but being naked is not exactly acceptable these days. Just wanted to clarify...please don't go around flaunting your raw, naked beauty to the world.)
The second article featuring naked people actually humbled me and quickly destroyed the beauty I found in the ESPN article. The article actually featured war veterans that were photographed in the same style as the ESPN photos. Athletic, strong...and naked (or almost naked).
As I read through the articles and photos in the ESPN article, I admired the beauty in the body God created. As I read through the war veteran article, I was reminded that beauty is actually not defined by a body. Beauty is better defined by a soul.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him [Note: this is referring to God rejecting Saul - characterized by outward appearances!]. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
In our world we are so consumed with outward appearance. From clothes to style to physical deformities. We define "normal" based on appearances. However, God is blinded to what we look like. He doesn't care if we wear white after Labor Day or have chunky thighs or have only 1 arm because we fought a great battle. He looks at our heart. And our acceptance of our Savior, His one and only Son. His one concern is our soul...and yet our concern is rarely focused on the soul.
So yes, I have been looking at naked magazine photos and articles. And yet these mainstream sources of entertainment, help remind me to focus on Jesus, my soul and the souls of those around me.
Nudity, beauty and Jesus,
I work in a world where numbers are everything. We determine how "good" we are at surgery, nursing, providing medical care based on numbers. Risk is driven by numbers. Outcomes are determined by numbers. Success is defined by numbers. Numbers matter. And often when we talk to families about risk, a 1% risk is considered to be worth it. We don't consider how big a 1% risk is until we are the 1%. When you find yourself in the 1%, it suddenly is your entire world. And numbers don't matter anymore.
And more often than not, 1% is a really lonely place. It is in this minority you find a parent grieving the loss of his/her child or a teenager dealing with an unexpected pregnancy or a horrible complication from surgery. You find these horrific scenarios you never even imagined yourself facing because honestly, what were the chances it would happen to YOU? And it's when you are facing these events that you ask yourself why. Why did God allow this to happen? Why me?
And it is at this point you learn to realize our world is about numbers but God's world doesn't pay attention to numbers. The "1% chance" that something was going to happen, is 100% part of His plan. And we have to believe our circumstances are part of His Sovereign plan...a plan He doesn't entirely reveal to us. I think this is the most frustrating part of faith. Knowing that everything is working for His glory and someday all the puzzle pieces...all the 1% times...will come together in His beautiful master plan.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
But until that time, all the pieces of His plan just don't make sense. And when we are lonely going through horrible circumstances we have to hold onto hope. Don't allow a desperate time to tempt you to ask why? Don't put a question mark, where God has put a period. When something happens, we have to resist the temptation to question it. But rather embrace it and hold onto hope for a better day. Stand firm in your faith that God does have a plan, that His plan will come together and hold onto the hope we have in Jesus.
So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A plan, a purpose and a period,
To be 100% transparent, I have been going through a dry season in my faith. I have felt completely and utterly disconnected from God. It's been tough to find motivation to go through the motions but I have tried to remain faithful in prayer and in attending church. I've been going through the motions waiting for God to move me. It hasn't been easy but today I felt Him again.
Our church has been studying the book of Ephesians so I knew we would be going over Ephesians Chapter 6 this morning. Ephesians Chapter 6 is about parenting. I'm not a parent and there really is no guarantee I will ever be a parent. So I woke up this morning with really no part of me wanting to go to church. However, these days I am used to this feeling so I pushed through and dragged my butt to church. I really didn't expect the message to be related to my life whatsoever. (God is literally looking down laughing at me right now...me of so little faith.)
1 Samuel 12:24
Only fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.
My soul was rocked this morning. A young youth pastor was given the opportunity to speak in the main service at church and WOW did he deliver a powerful message. Although it was directed at parents, it was also directed at children. Children of God. He transformed (actually God spoke through Him) Ephesians 6:1-4 (and chapter 5) into a message about surrendering to the Will of God. About letting go of parts of your life that you are holding onto and giving it to God. He challenged us to walk away and live out the Gospel. And although this pastor has no idea, he challenged me to give up a few things to God that I've been holding onto with a death grip. Sometimes we make God out to be so small and we limit His capability in our mind. Today I was reminded how forgiving, powerful and BIG He really is. I had to breakdown some limits I put on God (again, He is laughing at me.) I've made Him small. I've looked at Him through my ability not His ability.
My ability < His ability (by an infinite amount).
And more importantly, today I finally felt the connection to Him that I have longed for over the past couple of months. I walked away with hope that my dry spell may be coming to an end. For those that do not know Him (as their Savior), I cannot describe or put into words the incredible, overwhelming feeling of God's presence in your soul. Today was a reminder of why I serve the one and only living God. Once again I feel His love and joy and peace. (For my Christian readers, you know exactly how I feel...for my non-believing readers, I promise you God didn't leave my side. Part of faith in God is being challenged when your feelings waver -- my faith and God never wavered. Big difference.)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Lyrics to Jeremy Camp's "Take You Back" (great song)
The reason why I stand, The answer lies in you
You hung to make me strong, Though my praise was few
When I fall and bring your name down, But I have found in you
A heart that pleads forgiveness, Replacing all these thoughts Of painful memories
But I know That your response will always be
I'll take you back always
And even when your fight is over now
Even when your fight is over now
I'll take you back always
And even when the pain is coming through
Even when the pain is coming through
I'll take you back
You satisfy this cry Of what I'm looking for
And I take all I can And lay it down
Before the throne of endless grace, now
That radiates what's true I'm in the only place
That erases all these faults That have overtaken me
But I know That your response will always be
I can only speak With a grateful heart
As I'm pierced by this gift Of your love
I will always bring an offering I can never thank you enough
I love that when we are faithful He always brings us home. So I go forward with a renewed faith. I assure you there is no better feeling.
Forgiven, blessed, and overwhelmed with joy,
Two years ago I sat in a poorly lit ICU room and painted my grandmother's fingernails while she lay in a coma. I remember making the simple request to her nurse that day, explaining I really never remembered my grandma without painted nails and I couldn't watch her die with pale, plain nails. Although it seemed petty, she just wouldn't want it that way. Interestingly enough, turns out you can't actually find nail polish in a hospital.
So I asked my grandfather to bring nail polish from her condo to the hospital. He insisted she would want red nails but I never once remembered my grandmother's nails being painted red. She wore pink and beige mostly. However, he was adamant she would want red and I just agreed with him. However, he returned to the hospital with pink polish because he just couldn't locate her red nail polish anywhere in the house. (I still believe its because she didn't own red nail polish...but you just don't argue with a grieving man!) So I sat in a dark hospital room and painted her nails while she continued her slow death. She took her last breath 5 days later. Longest 5 days of my life.
I still can't believe it's been two years since I have seen her beautiful face or heard her beautiful voice. There are so many things I want to talk to her about and seek her advice on, I'm starting to believe the empty place she left in my heart is here to stay for good. And yet I find peace in knowing she is in His glory. One of the oddest epiphanies my grandfather and I had this past year was the moment we realized given the chance, she actually wouldn't choose to return home to us. She is with Jesus and there's no other place in the world she would choose to be. I remember having several conversations about her meeting Jesus throughout the last year of her life. And she was ready. She was so excited about meeting Him and finally reaching Heaven. She was overcome with a peace regarding her Lord. A peace I only hope I reach prior to my last breath on earth. Knowing she is spending eternity with her Lord and Savior allows me to go on without her here. It took grandpa and me a little while to realize it but by wishing her here with us, we were holding her back from Jesus. And there's no place she'd rather be.
And as I miss her a bit more this week and am a bit weepy at times, I try to hold onto the fact she is covered in His glory. And she is beautiful and healthy and smiling...with pink fingernails.
John 11: 40
Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
Peace, glory and pink fingernails,
For some reason, forgiveness is on my heart tonight. I haven't been struggling with forgiveness or experienced the need to forgive anyone in particular recently. However, I've learned when God puts something on my heart, there is usually a reason. And I should call this "Forgiveness - Part I" because I'm pretty sure this will result in three blogs on forgiveness. His plan not mine.
When I think of forgiveness, I imagine standing on the edge of a cliff with a bridge leading to the other side. On the other side of the bridge is an opportunity. A new adventure. A relationship. Freedom. Peace. You really can insert any opportunity on the other side of the bridge. You may not know all the details of the opportunity but you know it is different than where you are standing. The bridge between you and the other side is forgiveness.
When we hold tight to the wrongdoings against us, we are the only ones impacted. Our hearts grow cold and bitter or both. The person that has wronged us, is usually not affected by our unwillingness to forgive. We hold onto the bitterness and it negatively impacts us. And then we miss out on an opportunity. The opportunity may look a million different ways. Forgiving people often promotes restoring friendship; friendships you would have missed out on without walking the bridge of forgiveness. Or the opportunity to let go of hurt and bitterness and move on in life without restoring the relationship. In that case, living life without the heavy burden of bitterness is the opportunity. When we harbor hurt and pain caused by other people, we carry a burden that causes us to miss out on opportunities. And in the end, we lose out.
I am blessed to have one of the most forgiving friends in the world and though she lives far from Florida, she knows me better than anyone else on earth. In our friendship, I am so thankful we both are forgiving because we have had some knock-out, drag out fights (flashback to the Denver airport fight). We've exchanged hurtful words and mean girl attitudes. And yet, somehow we've forgiven each other and been able to grow as friends. If I held onto the hurt and anger once between us, I would have missed out on a dear, lifetime friend. And God has blessed me with her ability to forgive or again I would have missed out on an opportunity to have a friendship with this amazing woman. When we don't forgive others, we are the ones who lose out.
Now I understand forgiveness is REALLY hard sometimes. And just because you forgive and release the bitterness, hurt, pain, etc. doesn't mean you have to restore a friendship or relationship. I chose to forgive my ex-husband in order to let go of betrayal, hurt and pain with absolutely no intention of restoring the relationship. I had to forgive to let go of hurt and move on in new relationships. You can actually forgive and just walk the other way. And with forgiveness came a new, better relationship I would have missed out on! But I had to forgive to clear my own heart. Without forgiveness you can't move across the bridge.
I think one of the best examples of forgiveness in the Bible (except for the obvious one of God forgiving our sins through Jesus Christ) is when Joseph forgave his brothers. Joseph's brothers were downright evil to him; and they knew it. The plotted to kill him, deserted him in a pit and he ended up sold him into slavery. And yet Joseph forgave them and recognized God's work amongst the pain.
But Joseph told them (his brothers), "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people. No, don't be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families." And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them.
Don't hold onto the pain, bitterness, hurt, resentment or whatever else is brewing inside your heart. Let it go (insert Frozen musical tune). Walk across the bridge of forgiveness into a new opportunity.
A cliff, a bridge and an opportunity,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.